Monday, November 05, 2007

This and that

Time flies when you're having fun. I knew it had been a few days since I'd been to this part of the house, into my office, and had this computer on, but I didn't realize it had been a whole week. I have been more or less camped, you see, in the dining room, which doubles as our living room, where I have been reading and writing. I am up past 66,000 words on the first draft of the book I'm working on, and that project is devouring the time I usually devote to surfing and blogging. Beyond that, my hands, wrists, arms, etc. are whimpering, and do not want to participate in any typing that can be avoided. Yinga, even. Ouch, even. Beyond that, trying to keep everything tied together in my mind is taking pretty much all my brainpower right now. (My husband could probably verify this for you, were he the sort of man to tattle on his wife.)

I did want to share a funny story from the day before Halloween, though. That evening, my husband was outside in a parking lot, chatting with a friend, when from the neighboring parking lot came a child's voice, very loud, proclaiming, "I will not play games. I will not have fun. It isn't Halloween!" There was a short pause, and then the screaming continued. "I don't care if anybody gives me candy. It isn't Halloween. I. Won't. Have. Fun!"

That's it, fella. Stick to your guns. Don't let anybody bribe you into having fun on the wrong day. :)

Perhaps I should mention that around here, there is a Halloween party for big kids at the Elks Lodge on Halloween, and one for the little kids at the Elks Lodge the day before Halloween. Perhaps part of the problem might have stemmed from the frustration of being designated a little kid. I don't know. I do know that he cracked people up out beyond where he could see.

The poor kid. It's so hard to have a sense of propriety in a world that doesn't understand.

Changing gears here, I also wanted to note that the October 2007 Imprimis has a great interview with Clarence Thomas, much of it about his recently published book and his grandfather. In addition to it being an interesting interview, I'd like to note that it was conducted by student journalists. It gives me hope for America, when I see actual reporters entering the field (as opposed to, say, activists wielding keyboards, so to speak).

An excerpt (Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College):

Q: What is your purpose in writing your opinions?

CT: What I try to do first in my opinions is to apply the Constitution. But also, I look on the Constitution as the people’s Constitution. And so I try to make the Constitution accessible again to people who didn’t go to Harvard Law School. Of course, some of it gets involved because you have to deal with a lot of case law. But I want people to understand what the cases are about.

As for how I think about my opinions, imagine a train with 100 cars. The cars are the previous cases dealing with some issue—the meaning of the Commerce Clause, for instance, or of the First Amendment. Often what our decisions do is just tack on a new caboose to the train, and that’s it. But here’s what I like to do: I like to walk through the 100 cars and see what’s going on up front. I like to go back to the Constitution, looking at the history and tradition along the way. Because what if there’s a flashing light on the dashboard up front that says “wrong direction”? What if we’re headed the wrong way?

My job is to apply the Constitution. And here’s a useful lesson: You hear people talk all the time about the Bill of Rights. But you should always keep in mind that the Bill of Rights was an afterthought. That’s why it’s made up of what are called amendments. It was not in the original Constitution. The rights in the Bill of Rights were originally assumed as natural rights, and some people at the time thought that writing them into the Constitution was redundant. Read the Declaration of Independence. We should always start, when we read the Constitution, by reading the Declaration, because it gives us the reasons why the structure of the Constitution was designed the way it was. And with the Constitution, it was the structure of the government that was supposed to protect our liberty. And what has happened through the years is that the protections afforded by that structure have been dissipated. So my opinions are often about the undermining of those structural protections.

People need to know about that. Many might say, “Well, they are writing about the Commerce Clause, and nobody cares about that.” But they should care about it. The same is true of the doctrine of incorporation. The same is true of substantive due process. People should care about these things. And I try to explain why clearly in my opinions.

OK, that's a relatively dry part. Important, I think, but dry. If you're looking for something less dry, how about:

...Have you ever read Modern Times, by Paul Johnson? I read it back in the ’80s. It’s long, but it’s really worth the effort. One point it makes clearly is the connection between relativism, nihilism, and Naziism. The common idea that you can do whatever you want to do, because truth and morality are relative, leads to the idea that if you are powerful enough you can kill people because of their race or faith. So ask your relativist friends sometime: What is to keep me from getting a gang of people together and beating the hell out of you because I think you deserve to be beaten? Too many people think that life and liberty are about their frivolous pleasures. There is more to life. And again, largely what relativism reflects is simply a lack of learning.
Um, actually, I don't think I'll ask my relativist friends just exactly that, thanks, but I certainly do see his point. (I suspect, however, that my relativist friends, many of them at least, would naively reply that government would stop me, if we just passed the right laws. Government, you see, is the Great Channeler, that teaches non-elites how to think and what to do, and what is right and what is wrong. Supposedly. In their dreams, at least.)

I was talking to a friend who listens to NPR and BBC radio a lot, and he said that some of the folks at the BBC were practically gushing over this interview, saying that overall it was one of the best interviews with Justice Thomas they've seen. Hey, how about that? Somebody at the Beeb reads Imprimis? Good on them.

Imprimis home page here

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